Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Perfect Gambling Storm

Best. Month. Ever.

(Yes, I promise, when the inevitable pendulum swings in a negative fashion, I'll blog about that, too.)

I've been a pretty regular small-time gambler for going on five years now. This is the first month that I've ever crossed the magical 5K profit line. Granted, magical only in my own head, as that's been my fantasyland monthly benchmark to shoot for, on a regular basis, to even begin to entertain notions of filling in "Professional gambler" as occupation on assorted forms and what-not.

And the craziest thing is that I well-nigh emptied my bankroll earlier this month to pay for wedding stuff. That seems like a lifetime ago, grudgingly cashing out, muttering under my breath, gnashing my teeth. Yet here I sit, back in the warm bosomy embrace of Gamblorette, firing chips into the pot.

But there are the inevitable caveats. I've had a pretty insane run at the blackjack tables, cashing in on casino bonuses in a big way. And I cleared a few initial poker room bonuses that aren't recurring. And I had good runs in the two MTTs I played in, finishing in the top ten in both. So it's not exactly due to my own immense prowess, nor is it likely reproducible.

But still. Woot. Okay, that's my little victory jig. Now it's time to do it again. And again. And again.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Extreme Poker Pride Goeth Before a Fall

Watching a little football, catching up on assorted blog reading, playing a PL Omaha Hi/Lo MTT on Paradise with some leftover cash I left there after clearing the latest reload. Nearly to the second break and I'm holding my own, a wee bit below average stack. I think I've played all of half a dozen hands so far.

It's interesting, the role confidence plays in games of skill (and yeah, for the sake of the argument, I'm assuming that chess and bridge and backgammon and what-not are games of skill). In theory, it shouldn't matter a bit. In theory, you could be the least confident, quavering, snot-nosed, spineless sponge and still be the best chess/go/poker/bridge/Scrabble/backgammon player in the world. You could have absolutely no confidence whatsoever, be convinced that you were doomed to lose every game you played, and still make the absolute best play every single time.

Games aren't played in a bubble, though, so that's rarely the case. Poker is an extreme example of a game that hinges on incomplete information, but it's true of any game of skill. You can't always calculate the absolute outcome. There are times where you simply have to make a move and accept a certain risk of ruin, trusting in your evaluation that you very likely will get the best of it.

Enter confidence, stage left. It's pretty difficult to argue against the importance of confidence, however you muster it up. Most poker players learn in about 2.8 nanoseconds that it doesn't matter what cards you're holding when you shove all-in if everyone else at the table folds.

But I also think that like most things, too much of a good thing can be disastrous (or at the very least -EV). Even confidence. Especially confidence. Because we're always at the mercy of the cards, to some extent, and at the mercy of the unknown, and our opponents.

Which is a long-winded way of saying that I've always thought it best to sit down with the idea that you're the second-best player at the table, and relish that fact. You can still look forward to taking down lots of pots but you also need to stay alert and press every edge you get.

In the larger, grander sense, we've all got something to learn, every day. Poker, life, you name it. Logging on and laughing at the 49,999 other stupid fish on Party isn't productive, in any fashion. Even if you are beating the hell out of whatever level you're playing. Because unless your last name is Brunson, Negreanu, or Ivey, there's always a bigger game out there that you could be working up to, that you could be improving for.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Poker, Turkey, and Football

Hopefuly that title should say it all. If any/all of those things don't bring glee to your cold, darkened heart, then there's something wrong with you.

Not a whole lot to report from the poker coal mines. I've managed to uneventfully grind through two reload bonuses at Party (if you have a Party account, check the cashier and your bonus account, as Party also gave out some account-specific November reload bonuses in addition to the general RELOADNOV bonus), the Paradise reload, plus a reload at Aspinalls. Nothing very remarkable from all those hands, for the most part. Decent cards, minor fluctuations in bankroll, cashed out of all three with healthy profits.

One leak I have noticed over the weekend is betting for information from early position with marginal hands (usually when playing from the blinds after limping in). Let's say you limp from the BB with K8o with 3 other players in a full ring $2/4 game, and the flop comes K 10 4, rainbow. Perfect spot to bet for information, as you'd rather find out on the flop if someone else has a K with a good/decent kicker (or anything else raise-worthy). So you bet and get one caller, one raiser, and a fold, bringing the action back to you. Cool, now you can just call and go into check-call mode and minimize your losses.

Bzzt, wrong answer. If you're going to bet for information in situations like that, you have to follow through and fold, when the information you get is bad news. I've somehow fallen into the bad habit of betting for information but not following through when I get raised, instead calling and hoping to improve, or that my K8 is somehow good, etc. If you're playing with players capable of raising you in that situation on a bluff/draw, then you shouldn't be betting for information in the first place. If you're going to bet for information from early position with top pair/weak kicker and get raised, you gotta drop 'em. No ifs, ands, or buts. The times that someone successfully puts a move on you with a weaker hand are pretty rare, and more than offset by the turn/river bets you save.

I still can't get over the fishy play at Aspinalls, especially at the NL tables. If you play NL and have some extra bankroll to try new sites with, you have to give
Aspinalls a whirl. You always get a certain amount of suckouts with well-heeled maniacs who will push with bottom pair, but simple, solid ABC poker has paid off for me there in a big way.

Aside from poker, I've pretty much gotten the poker bonus website I've been working on down. Nothing really earthshattering or unique, just a general guide to poker bonuses, strategy, and an updated, comprehensive guide to all the bonuses out there. Basically more detailed, instructional, and comprehensive than Bonuswhores, with none of the forum jibber-jabber. Links forthcoming when I've worked out all the kinks and the thing is live.

That said, I may ease off the personal bonus chasing for a bit. The day job is becoming increasingly depressing and unsatisfying, and I find myself crunching numbers more and more, trying to find an alternative. I don't think I'd ever want poker to be my sole source of income, but I could definitely handle it being half my income, with affiliate marketing providing the rest. I've got the bankroll repaired enough to sit 5/10 if I consolidate the ten jillion poker accounts I have and that's probably the bare minimum limit game one could sit and eke out any sort of living. I'm giving myself at least another year of the day job, but the sooner I get back into the higher limit swing, the better. It's also just not very interesting or challenging at a certain point, as far as chasing bonuses. Good for building the bankroll, yes, but just not challenging and prone to stagnation.

So we'll see. Easy enough to slide back into the grind, if the situation demands its.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Too Much of a Good Thing

I think I've managed to overdose on poker. Blasphemous, yes, but sadly true.
I think I put in a solid eight hours of poker today. I guess that's not an insane amount, comparatively speaking, but enough to make my brain mush.

Pretty solid day, profit-wise, with a few peaks and valleys. I'm doing the bonus whore site hop right now, working off three or four bonuses simultaneously, so I usually set a fairly arbitrary goal/stop loss for each site, and just rotate through them. There was actually a fairly full $25 NL ring game at TigerGaming when I got up around 7, so I bought in and immediately was dealt JJ. Took down a decent pot and was off and running. Kept getting strong starting hands, kept hitting draws, kept getting paid off by people on draws. 45 minutes later I cashed out of the table with $225. Roar.

Then I gave some of it back at Aspinalls, when I just couldn't catch anything and kept pushing too hard with marginal hands. Bubbled out in a MTT there, too, when my KK got sucked out on.

PokerPlex was kind to me, though. Hit a straight flush for a huge pot where the guy with the A high flush kept re-raising me on the river.

Party kicked me in the nads again, though. I swear, Party is tightening up, or there are lots of people chasing bonuses there right now with the reloads, or something. A couple of pretty horrendous beats aided in my demise there tonight, but I saw more trickier plays in the hour and a half I was there then everywhere else combined all day. And this was at a 2/4 table.

But yeah, all in all a good day. I'll take it.

Trying to think of wise, illustrative things to say but failing. Probably due to that whole brain mush thing.

The last week has given me a lot of grist for the PokerTracker mill, and it's interesting to look at trouble starting hands that I should let go but don't, and see if it matches my internal perception of hands that smack me around and make me call them my daddy.

Ax suited is an interesting one (especially when x < 10), as I feel like I limp in with it way too much, unable to let the flushy allure go. I'd have guessed that it was largely -EV for me but it's actually +EV across the board, except for A4s and A7s. I suppose the answer (and it ain't rocket science) is that you can get away with playing Ax if you're able to let go of it when the situation dictates it, even/especially if an A hits the board.

Another surprise was KQo and KJo. I always feel fishy in regards to these, thinking that I play them too often out of position and in the face of strength, but both are solidly profitable. I guess you can't argue with the power of big cards, but it also likely is due to selective passivity and letting them go when it's time to fold them.

On the flip side of the coin, K10s and JTs are two of my biggest surprise losers. I like playing J10s and seem to remember good success with it. Nay, not so, not even close. Again, extended the very obvious thread, the bigger the two cards you gots, the better.

Which is pretty mushy analysis. Sorry. Time to take my worn-out self to bed.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Hip Deep in Poker

Ahh, 'tis a beautiful thing to have an entire week off (not counting being off last Friday), with nothing in front of you but mas poker, turkey, and, well, mas poker.

Our most benevolent god Gamblor is still smiling on me. Barring a catastrophic conclusion to the month, this is shaping up to be my best month ever. It's a little embarassing that casino bonuses are playing as large a role in the profit as they are, but, well, poker has been pretty damn kind, too.

The wife was very kind this weekend and let me grind out all sorts of play to clear assorted bonuses. Did very well with the PokerStars reload, as well as the InterPoker monthly bonus. Did pretty dang good with the PokerNow reload. Basically crapped out with the Party reload, only making $27.

Maybe it's just my contrary nature, but more and more I find myself seeking out sites other than Party and the assorted skins. I think undoubtedly, hands down, there are more fish (and more horrible fish) on Party than anywhere. That I won't argue. But anywhere you find a lot of fish, you'll find sharks. Not to say that most Party tables are shark-infested, but you will find decent players, even on lower limit tables like 2/4 and 3/6. Can't say the general level of play at those levels is amazingly good or tough to beat, but the schooling of fishies and decent players places makes it a little difficult sometimes.

I play a lot of different sites, chasing bonuses, and am routinely flabbergasted with just how bad the general level of play at some sites is. It usually comes with a price, as far as slow software, or occasional lack of available tables, but that's usually a small price. While it's a little self-defeating to share one's favorite, out-of-the-way fishing holes, we're all in this together. Here's a few of the lesser-known sites that I've had good success with, that you might not otherwise stumble across:

1) Aspinalls Poker

This is currently my favorite fishing hole, for assorted reasons. First off, Aspinalls Poker is a lot like some of the juicy Crypto sites that are tied to casinos, but with none of the drawbacks. You get a nice influx of casino players looking to play some of that there poker they saw on the TV and the software is actually pretty decent. It's not flashy by any stretch of the imagination, but it's fast, clean, and functional (if you can ignore the annoying avatars).

They offer all the standard fare, as well as SitnGos, MTTs, and other assorted tournaments. Almost all of the tournaments are re-buys, too, which is nice if you like that option. Majority of players appear to be European, which makes for some crazy aggressive play sometimes.

Aspinalls is currently offering a 25% initial signup bonus, up to $100 (deposit $400 to get the max bonus). They base the bonus on something they call Action Points, which you get based on the total pot in hands you contribute money to. Complicated sounding, yes, and they never explain the actual math behind it (I couldn't find it, at least), but it clears pretty quickly. I played two 2/4 short-handed tables and cleared it in about 6 hours. Cashouts usually take about 36 hours to hit my Neteller account, which isn't great but decent.

All in all, only good things to say. Really, really fishy play at Aspinalls, decent number of players at the tables, and a decent sign-up bonus.

2) InterPoker

This really isn't an out of the way poker room, as lots of bloggers play here or at least have heard of it, but sweet Jebus, what a ripe site. It's far and away my most profitable site, even subtracting the $90 monthly bonus, and lately I find myself sitting at tables here even after I've cleared the bonus.

InterPoker is tied to a casino so, like Aspinall's and other, you get lots of truly horrible players willing to fling money around. A nice added bonus is that they don't cap betting on the river in limit games, so you can occasionally encounter a maniac who will bleed off his entire stack, re-raising into you when you have the absolute nuts (this has personally happened to me twice). They also offer royal flush and bad beat bonuses on every table, regardless of the limit (the payout is adjusted according to the limit you're playing, though). They also offer a recurring $90 monthly bonus, and you only have to play 450 raked hands to clear it.

That's the good stuff. The bad stuff is that their software is absolutely horrible and is the slowest piece of junk around. Not only as far as the game play but also in regards to getting on waiting lists, buying chips, accessing your account info in the cashier, etc. It's also a pain to cash out the first time, as you have to wait for them to snail mail you a pin number that you need to cash out, which takes anywhere from 1-3 weeks to get to you.

All that aside, 'tis a pretty fishy site and has plenty of games going around the clock. If you can put up with the sftware interface, InterPoker is one of the more profitable sites out there.

3) TigerGaming

I'd never even heard of TigerGaming until a few weeks ago, so this is a very recent addition to the grand tour of poker fishing holes. It's a small, independent poker site based in Canada, with a roughly equal mix of US and Canadian players.

Software is decent, if a little stripped down. Definitely ain't slick and fancy looking but it gets the job done. The action is a bit slow and there's not much in the way of tournaments. They offer a decent sign-up bonus but use a homegrown system of Player Option Points (POP) that unlock bonuses. You get the points by winning a hand, and the total is based on the pot size of the hand you win. Long story short, the bonus clears fairly quickly.

TigerGaming does have one big drawback. There just aren't many players so it's pretty hard to find a table. Tournament action is pretty non-existent, for the above reason. There are usually a couple of games going at each limits at peak hours during the night, but during the day the site can be a wasteland, with no ring games whatsoever. You're often forced to sit short-handed to find a game at all, so if that isn't your cup of tea, beware.

So why am I listing it? I can honestly say that I've never seen such bad, bad play for real money at an online site. Never. I really don't know where these players come from, but I've truly seen people capping the betting pre-flop from UTG with 72s (because, you know, they're suited). Players sitting down at a 3/6 table and buying in for $20. Really. In full ring 2/4 and 3/6 tables it's not unusual to have 7-8 players consistently see the flop, with half of them playing ATC. Really.

You'll encounter some pretty nasty suckouts, due to the above, but also get paid off when you do hit. Simple, tight ABC poker serves you very, very well.

If you can find a table, TigerGaming ain't a bad place at all to play.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Poker and Art

It's interesting, nights like these. It's very easy to make assumptions about what poker is, what gambling is, what games of skill/chance are. And yes, all of that is very true, the impulse is very well-intentioned, the final conclusion is very well-defined.

But it isn't really any of that. The joy of it comes from somewhere else. There's an innate pleasure in creating order from disorder that permeates any game. Chance or skill, doesn't matter. You establish a set of rules and you play by them. There are better decisions and worse decisions. If you apprehend enough about the game, you appreciate the nuances. If you don't, you don't. Unlike so many things in life the end result is very cut and dried. It's there or it isn't. End of story.

And what does this have to do with anything? Not much. I'm having one of those strange nights of poker where you can seemingly win at will, forcing good flops to lie down with you via sheer dint of mental energy, picking off bluffs at will, bluffing at will. Cards falling into place, almost despite myself.

And the end result? Not to completely call my uber dork side out, but it reminds me very much of playing chess. I was a freakishly good chess player as a kid, and so much of my success wasn't due to some mind-bending insight but more to the ability to apprehend the position and make the absolute best move. Over and over and over. Until you grind the person across the table into dust.

And that's where poker is right now. And honestly, that's where I think I can keep poker. At a certain point the cards start meaning less than position on the table and sheer, inescapable will to have the pot pushed over to you. And that's the real batttle, I think, and the real test. Reaching the point where the cards themselves are next to meaningless, and you're simply processing odds and expectations and acting in accordance, to maximize the chips that end up in front of you.

You won't always catch cards. But you can always like you just did, and exert the maximum pressure on weaker souls to acknowledge it. Then when you do have an actual hand it's just gravy. That's the big epiphany. Right there.

PartyPoker Reload Bonus: RELOADNOV

The good folks at Party decided to toss everyone a bone, with the follow reload bonus released on Nov. 19 (but it apparently works now if you simply can't wait):

20% to $100, with 7x raked hands to clear. Bonus code is RELOADNOV. You have seven days after your deposit to clear the bonus.

It's a good thing I'm taking all of next week off (woot), as I still have monthly bonuses at InterPoker and PokerPlex to work off, as well as the PokerStars reload, plus some residual Absolute Poker bonus money.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

PokerStars Reload and Assorted Weirdness

Yesterday was an odd day of poker.

First things first, let's get the ugly out of the way. I've got about ten decent casino bonuses I'm working through, and hit up Casino County yesterday. Nice little 100% match up to $100 bonus, decent WR, easy pickings. Err, no. Deposit my $100, get my $100 bonus, and proceed to go on a horrible run of cards at blackjack. I lasted all of twenty minutes I think before completely busting out. And the sad thing is I was flat betting $2 a hand. That takes some doing, to bust that quickly, but I managed to pull it off. So yes, kids, moral of the story is that gambling is still, well, gambling.

So I messed around on PokerNow a bit, really just waiting for a cashout from there to clear, so I could hit the PokerStars reload bonus before it expired. I was two tabling 3/6 and a $25 NL table, watching television, just sort of chilling out. Cashout goes through, I close the 3/6 table, and am about to close the $25 NL table when I get dealt JJ in the BB. I'm down to about $20 or so from my original buy-in, having limped a few times but really not seeing any decent cards.

Three players limp in for $1 and I raise to $4. Only the button calls (who I have slightly covered) and we see a flop of Qc 9s 2c. I bet out $6 and he calls. Turn is the Kc. I check, just to see where we're at, and he instapushes all-in.

So I go to click the fold button, but I just can't do it. I've got nothing. Well, a pair of jacks (and one is the Jc) but still. He likely either made his flush or has AK, AQ, KQ, QQ, etc. Or Kx or Qx. So yeah. I've got nothing.

Except I was about to close out the table anyway, only had $8 or so left, and it's a decent pot, and, you know, maybe he's betting two pair or a straight, and the river will be a club, and my jack high flush will be golden.

So I, umm, call, and the river is a club, and my jack high flush beats his set of Qs. Terrible. But whee, I have $45 in front of me now. He goes into a well-deserved tirade, about how he's going to stay just to watch me bust out, what an idiot I am, etc. To which I keep replying "klonkklonkklonkklonkklonk". (I only do that because someone at InterPoker sucked out a huge pot on me, hitting a two outer on the river, and kept typing that in, which pissed me off royally for some reason. I mean, really, what else are you going to say when you make a bad call and get insanely lucky?)

Two hands later I limp in on the button with A2c. Five of us see a flop of 4c 6c 7d. Checked to me, I bet out $3, big stack at the table ($80 or so, who is UTG) calls, everyone else folds. Turn is a 3c. UTG checks and I check. (I know, nut flush, but I figured if I was going to get anything else out of him it'd have to be on the river and I wasn't scared of giving him a free card.)

River is the 5h, giving us a board of 3c, 4c, 5h, 6c, 7d. Pot is $11. I perked up a bit at the 5 on the river, thinking that maybe he'd call a token underbet with a straight on the board, pegging me as that annoying asshole that bets in situations like that. UTG checks, I bet $2. UTG raises to $20.

I sit there and stare at it for a bit. What could he be holding to cause him to overbet the pot like that, waking up only on the river, with a coordinated board? 89? 88? 8(any)? K(any)clubs? 89c? Of course, he did limp in, so 57c is a remote possibilty, for the straight flush, but I think it's safe to ignore that when putting people on hands in situations like this. If they have it, cool, I tip my hat to that.

I'm pretty certain I have the nuts, so the question is how much do I re-raise. The pot is $33, I have about $40 left in my stack, he's got about $65. I'm afraid if I push he'll simply fold. He'll also probably fold to any significant re-raise. So I do the weak annoying mini-reraise, timidly pushing in $24. He instashoves all-in.

Which leaves me in an odd state of joy/despair. I have to call and do, gladly, but bracing slightly to see the 57c. He flips over A8. I take down a big ol' pot. Umm, okay, boss. Thanks.

Fast forward to later on in the night, when I'm at PokerStars playing full ring 3/6. I really hadn't been getting much for cards, had a pretty tight table image (my only two raises took down the blinds uncontested), and the table in general was pretty low-key, with no maniacs, fish, etc. I'm dealt AA in the SB. An apparently decent player raises from UTG, button calls, I re-raise, BB folds, UTG re-raises, button folds, I cap.

Flop is A 8 6, rainbow. UTG and I go to war, betting is capped.

Turn is a J. We continue our war, betting is capped.

River is a 2. No possible straight or flush. We battle some more, betting is capped.

I win, UTG mucks without showing.

I only bring this up because I can't, for the life of me, put him on a hand that would make the action even quasi-sensible. He wasn't tilting and had played well while I was at the table. He wasn't short stacked or bleeding chips. He just momentarily lost his mind and handed me a lot of chips.

So yeah. The cards continue to treat me pretty well. I feel like I'm making good progress, as far as amping up the aggression, even in the face of potentially scary boards/cards. Living in fear of a check-raise is no way to live. If anything, you want to be check-raised a certain amount, as otherwise you're not getting the most value from your winning hands.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Caribbean Sun Bonus, PokerNow Reload, Reef Club Casino Fun

So let's see. Last week was my first entry into the world of casino bonuses, posting pretty impressive wins at StarLuck, PlanetLuck, Sands of the Caribbean, Reef Club, and William Hill. Nice initial signup bonuses plus a good run of cards at blackjack resulted in a significant jolt upward to my online bankroll.

I'd also been wary of playing at the casinos but it's a relatively risk-free endeavor, if the bonus is large enough and you can stay disciplined enough, wagering the minimum at blackjack in order to play enough to clear the bonus requirements. Just stay focused, grinf through the minimum bets, and follow a blackjack basic strategy guide and you'll be good to go. Also be sure to do the non-download option when available, as it often has slight better player odds. Don't freak out if you start losing and don't double up your bets to offset a loss, etc. Just stay smart and disciplined and, more often than not, you'll make money.

I also managed to squeeze in quite a bit of poker, thanks to a reload bonus at Pokernow (15% up to $100, 800 raked hands) and the monthly Caribbean Sun $40 bonus for 350 hands.

Basically broke even on the PokerNow bonus (you win some, you lose some) but had a really good run at Caribbean Sun, cashing out +$250. The Crypto sites do seem to be tightening up a bit, as far as the HE limit games, but the NL games are incredibly soft. Be a bit careful, though, as the players seem a bit more maniacal in general, so be less inclined to try to push someone off a hand with a stone cold bluff. Twice yesterday I saw someone call an $100 all-in raise with nothing but jack high (and suck out to win, both times). The Stud and Omaha games are pretty damn lucrative, too, as people simply play anything their dealt and almost always call at least to the turn. Patience, good starting hand selection, and aggressiveness when your cards hit go a long, long way.

I think I'm slowly improving in regards to overcard play in limit HE. Knowing when to be selectively aggressive is hard but it's becoming clear that so much of my hourly earn comes from correctly playing common situations such as holding two overcards on a ragged flop. It's easy to remember the +$100 pots you drag in with huge hands but it's correctly playing the much more common, slightly trickier hands that make the largest difference in your overall profit/loss.

Still need to hit up the PokerStars reload bonus this week and hopefully a few more low-hanging casino bonuses.

Keep on Truckin'

Part of me feels bad about posting good results here. Granted, it's a very small part, but it's an interesting aspect of blogging, especially blogging about gambling related themes. Spend enough time playing poker, blackjack, sports betting, whatever, and you quickly realize that while skill, discipline, and serious study can make you a long-term winner, short-term results are always influenced by the rather fickle nature of pure unadulterated luck and variance.

What's interesting, though, is the human nature of self-interest, when reading about someone else's gambling experience. When I read about someone going on an absolute tear in 15/30, taking down $27,000 in a single night (I'm completely making this example up), I don't immediately think, "Huzzah, good for Jimbob." If I break down my thoughts, it's likely something more like "Goddamn, what I would give for a run like that" followed by "That's great, JimBob, but it's going to be a real bitch when your luck runs out and you come crashing back down to earth."

Why is that, exactly? I mean, one obvious answer is that I'm a greedy, cold-hearted bastard. That's not completely true, though, so it's a bit more complicated. And, to be fair, it's about a 50/50 mixture, of unadulterated good wishes and adulterated, selfish wishes. JoeBob's success doesn't harm me in any way (assuming I'm not at the same table with him), though, so why shouldn't I wholeheartedly wish him well, and react only positively to his posting about his success? I like when people succeed, when people are happy. Really. So what is it about the situation that makes me respond with less than happy, enthusiastic applause and good wishes?

From a grunting monkey perspective, part of it could be a basic instinctual desire to hoard something valuable. In this case, the currency is luck. When faced with others being blessed with good luck, an instinctual response is to respond negatively ("Argh, I want that") and immediately create a scenario in which that valuable good luck is returned, if not to the grunting monkey directly then to the universe as a whole.

Which is interesting in and of itself, as far as the currency of luck. I do believe in luck. Yes, I know, blah blah math, but I don't think most of us ever approach the big numbers where cold hard math wins out over short term variance. Working with a smallish sample, I do believe that some people are lucky, while others are unlucky. Yes, I know, from a grander view the underlying math destroys any argument for "luck" but we're not sitting in that grand high chair in the sky, and are instead down here in the much, working with what we have.

But I also believe that luck comes and goes. That possession is not a constant, due to the whole short term variance beast. So it's not too far a leap to get to the point where I react, when encountering good fortune in others, with at least a small amount of injurious desire for their good luck to depart, so that it becomes available again to greedy monkeys such as myself. And so on and so forth.

Which is a long-winded way of saying what goes around comes around. That I hesitate to post continued good results because part of me fears the inevitable bite in the ass. Plus a healthy dose of projecting my own reaction to reading about good fortune onto others, as far as hesitating to post inexplicably good results because I know it puts others in the position of being a hater.

But it's not like I'm going to give back all the bling-bling I took down this weekend. And I'm going to post about it later, when I'm caught up with work stuff. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Casino Bonus Bankroll Management

In some ways, managing your casino bankroll is no different than managing a checking account. You’re going to start with a certain amount that you’ll use to deposit funds into online casinos. Once you deposit, you need to budget that money wisely and make sure you stretch it as far as possible. You also need to be careful to make the most of your money by only depositing funds where you get the maximum amount of return on your dollar.

But enough broad generalities; useful specifics, here we come.

One key consideration in regards to casino bankroll management is how much you start with. If you only have $100 to start with, there’s a certain order in which you’ll want to do bonuses in, and a certain minimum bet you should make. That’s what we recommend in the bulk of this beginning strategy guide and you’ll find the sites listed in the order they should be played. You’ll slowly build that bankroll to the point where you can safely pursue later bonuses that require larger initial deposits (but also pay out larger bonuses). You’ll also gain valuable experience into how casino bonuses work and will be playing on online casino sites that process cashouts fairly quickly, so you don’t have dead downtime waiting for a site to process your withdrawal.

If you have $500 to start with, though, you can basically do the bonuses in just about any order. You can also wager slightly more than the minimum (as long as you acknowledge the risk), thus speeding up the process of claiming the bonus. You also can deposit into sites that have very slow cashout times as you won’t be tying up your entire bankroll on one site.

If all other factors are equal (you understand how bonuses work, you understand basic blackjack strategy, you have the bankroll to do any bonus) you want to start with the “best” bonuses. By “best” we mean those that pay the largest dollar amount with the least amount of wagering required (WR).

Using a real world example, Casino-On-Net is currently the best bonus available, offering a 100% bonus match up to $200, on a $200 deposit. The WR is only 10x bonus, or $2,000. That’s about as good a bonus as there is in online casino land. If you have $200 to deposit and know what you’re doing, you’ll want to do this bonus as quickly as possible.

Why is that, you say? Because casino bonuses are a bit of a game of cat and mouse, and always subject to change. Many good casino bonuses have disappeared as casinos became wiser and realized that too many players were simply depositing, cashing in on the bonus, and never returning. More commonly, casinos continue to offer bonuses but up the WR or disallow certain games such as blackjack to count towards the wagering requirement for the bonus. Long story short, these bonuses have a shelf life and could disappear tomorrow, so if you have the bankroll for it you want to do the best ones as quickly as possible, when they’re still available.

But if you have a limited bankroll, don’t fear. You can easily work through the best casino bonuses in a month starting with just $100 and very likely be able to hit up all of the best available bonuses.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Why Thank You, Yes, I'll Take More Good Gambling Mojo


*Peers around, looking for bloodstains from a double virgin sacrifice to the gambling gods, finds nothing*

The last few days have been very odd. If only I could bottle it, or reproduce it at will. I'm not complaining, mind you, just wishing for a gambling hump, where I could store excess good results for a time of need.

Despite putting on a brave face, I was pretty bummed to cash out the bulk of the poker bankroll earlier this week. Yes, sure, it was for a good cause, and I don't regret having a spiffy wedding and honeymoon one bit, but, still, you know... I played hard for that money, sweated over that money, scratched and clawed my way through the micro limits for that money, grinded for that money.

Granted, I've now twice built up a decent roll from scratch, so it wasn't that I didn't believe I could do it again. I just didn't want to have to go back to the grind. Partly due to good old-fashioned laziness, partly due to cringing at the idea of stepping back down to .50/1, partly wondering if I'll ever have the roll to safely play 15/30 again, like a few years ago, before the buying of a house took my roll down to the felt.

This week, though, has been absurdly profitable. And largely from all the wrong places. Blackjack, video poker, and Let it Ride? Are you kidding?

Basically doubled my puny bankroll at PlanetLuck, doubled again at StarLuck. Turned $80 into $460 at William Hill, with a little help from 4 of a kind at Let it Ride. Re-deposited $300 at PokerRoom to work off the $200 sign-up bonus I still had pending in the account, hit an incredible stretch of cards, just cashed out a bit shy of $1,000. Close to clearing the Caribbean Sun poker bonus and up $150 on the day.

So, umm, yeah. It took me all of four or five days to get half the roll back. The best part is that I can return to poker, giggling like a little girl, and leave the world of casino craziness aside. Well, after I clear a few more juicy bonuses or three.


Thursday, November 11, 2004

Putting the Shill in Shilling

Sorry about all the assorted links and unintended shilling and outright shilling lately. Part of it is that I'm not playing much poker, so I'm a bit lacking in any poker content to blog. Another equal part is that the day job is deteriorating rapidly in the happy-fun department of late, so I've been ramping up the affiliate marketing efforts outside o' work, and once I put on that hat it's hard to take off.

I've been surprised to find out that I actually like wearing a wedding ring. I've never worn jewelry at all, not even a watch (ignoring my Dukes of Hazzard watch when I was six, which I wouldn't even take off when bathing), and was prepared for it to bug the holy hell out me, even though it is just a plain white gold band. I'm finding I like it, though, especially as far as a tool to keep my hands busy. I'm one of those people who never know what to do with their hands, especially when sitting down and talking to someone. But now, voila, it's instant occupying fun, what with the unending spinning and turning of the ring. Plus I like driving my fellow cubicle monkeys mad by clicking it against my mouse. Shiny and noisy. Caw.

I'm writing a cheesy detective novel. With swords and dragons and assorted other mythical crap. Except written in a noirish, Dashiell Hammett-esque style. Really. It's something I've been rolling around in my head for awhile but never got around to. Despite the MFA and too many damn pretentious fiction and poetry workshops and the fact my absolute favorite book in the world is Cormac McCarthy's Suttree, I've always liked cheesy, schlocky detective novels, as well as fantasy stuff. And I thought it'd be interesting to sort of mash together the assorted worlds. Which is probably a doomed exercise, as it'd just piss off devotees of either genre, but hey, tilting at windmills is fun.

Staying busy though, which is good. This weekend I need to get serious with assorted trees hanging on the roof and mow the dang ol' yard again, hopefully/possibly for the last time this fall. Naw, who am I kidding, this is Austin. I'll probably be mowing the damn thing on Christmas.

Review of Internet Texas Hold 'Em by Matthew Hilger

Internet Texas Hold 'Em by Matthew Hilger

I have to say that I was pretty impressed by this book overall. I got it as a free signup promotion from an online site and basically chose it completely blind, having already read the other books they were offering.

In many ways it's your typical Texas hold 'em strategy book, covering starting hand selection, play on various streets, bluffing, semi-bluffing, bankroll management, you name it. While on the surface it's structured to be a complete guide for utter newbies that have never played a hand, I imagine you'd be a bit lost if you were brand new to poker, as it segues pretty quickly into fairly advanced concepts. That said, you'll be a little bored at the beginning if you've already got a good handle on hold 'em and have read other poker strategy books.

Hilger deals with limits from .50/1 to 20/40 and above. Unlike Small Stakes Hold 'em, he doesn't really advocate a different approach for different limits. He's pretty much in line with SSH as far as recommended starting hands and advocates a fairly aggressive approach, maybe a smidge less than Miller/Sklansky but definitely in the same ballpark.

His writing style is pretty straightforward and clear, which is a welcome change from the stilted Sklansky-speak most of us have had to wade through. Hilger doesn't avoid the issue of pot odds, implied odds, and assorted maths, but he also doesn't drone on and on about mathematical concepts, choosing instead to spend much more time on illustrative real-world hand examples, which for me was by far the most valuable part of the book.

While most poker strategy books include illustrative hands, Hilger really uses the concept to great advantage. Each section of the book ends with pages of quiz-type hand examples, where you have to choose the correct play based on the information learned in the chapter.

What's cool (and valuable) is that he includes 12 examples for each chapter, and drills down to specific chapters. So instead of a few examples of river play, turn play, etc., you got tons of hand examples and quizes for specific topics such as correctly playing straight draws, overcards, two pair, nut hands, etc. Maybe I'm just a visually-oriented monkey, but that approach of introducing a concept and immediately following it with multiple real-world examples was much, much more effective than simply reading about why I should raise with overcards on the button with a ragged board in a small pot, blah blah blah. He also doesn't bother with graphical representations of cards in hand examples, something I greatly appreciated as that's always seemed pretty unnecessary and a waste of page space to me.

My largest complaint is that the title should simply be "Texas Hold 'Em", as there's really Internet-centric about the book. He makes a few swipes at it by including really brief chapters on online tells and online bonus promotions, but don't expect anything at all meaty as far as the aspect of online play. It's just a hold 'em strategy book, plain and simple.

All in all, it's definitely a worthwhile read. It's a bit pricy but not overly so. If you're regularly crushing 5/10 and a master of aggression, well, there's probably nothing new here for you. But for anyone else, especially people looking to improve their game and move up the limit ladder, this book is well worth your time.

PlanetLuck and StarLuck Casino Bonuses


So yesterday continued my venture into the casino bonus waters, this time hitting up StarLuck. They offer the same signup bonus as PlanetLuck (100% match on a $100 deposit)and are part of the same Party/IGM family.

Deposited $100 at StarLuck, got the $100 bonus match, played blackjack for an hour or two, ended up with $370 in my account after clearing the WR (wager requirement).


Let me be the first to admit that I know this is abnormal, and I'm not suggesting in any way that casino whoring is a no-risk path to great riches. I mean, it's blackjack. If you're patient, though, and do some research and target the right bonuses, play the right games, it is +EV. It's also boring as all hell, but, well, you know. Money is good, especially if you're building/re-building a wee bankroll.

If you've been curious about casino bonuses, StarLuck and PlanetLuck are probably the best places to test the waters. They've got good bonuses that only require $100 to max out, low WR (the amount you have to wager before the bonus can be withdrawn), and fast cashouts (basically the same payment/transaction system as Party). Each also offers an extra free $20 or so if you fill out a silly survey in their Players Club section, which you'll get an email about after you signup. Just click on the Players Club tab at the top of the main screen, answer all the survey questions, then convert the points into cash.

A couple of things to keep in mind, though. As I understand it (and I could be wrong), you can't cash out your bonus money until you've met the WR, and they consider money wagered to first come from your deposit. Let's say you deposit $100. You immediately get the $100 bonus, so you have $200 in your account. The WR for the signup bonus is 8x (deposit + bonus), so you have to wager $1,600 in the casino before you can withdraw. You hit a horrible streak of cards and your account drops from $200 to $75. At that point you say "Screw this" and you want to withdraw your money and cut your losses. Except you can't, until you've wagered a total of $1,600, as the casino considers that remaining $75 to be your bonus money, not your original deposit.

So there is an element of risk. You can greatly minimize that, though, by making small bets ($1, $2, or $3 per hand) and playing blackjack. It ends up being +EV as the bonus is big enough to cover the standard deviation. If you're interested in the maths, check out the CasinoWhores FAQ here.

Long story short, if you're working with a limited bankroll and/or prone to poker whoring, don't ignore the casino bonus options out there. It's a different scene but the same basic game.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Readin', Writin', and Whorin'

Hmm. I'm not sure whether it's a good or a bad thing that the gambling gods don't seem to want to let me go.

After catching up with some poker blog reading yesterday (and you know, all of my day job work that had piled up when I was on vacation), I started poking around at assorted online casinos and forums, looking at signup bonuses and what-not. Yeah, I know, I know. But I'd never done the casino bonus whore circuit before, and a little reading convinced me to give it a whirl with my huge, strapping $100 bankroll.

So I created an account at PlanetLuck and plunked down my 100 bones. For the record, I have to say that playing blackjack online is one of the most mindless, brain-rotting activities imaginable. At least you get free drinks at B&M casinos, and there's some element of interaction with people, some element of fun. Hitting little buttons online and watching cards flip, at a constant disadvantage, is not my idea of fun.

That side, I cleared the WR requirements for the PlanetLuck bonus in an hour and cashed out $237.00. I suppose StarLuck is next, when the Neteller payment clears.

I also realized that I'd unknowingly been accumulating a Sands of the Caribbean casino bonus, based on deposits to play poker at Caribbean Sun. I had a little over $200 in casino bonus money just sitting there. So, much mind-numbing grinding
later, I cleared the WR with $170 or so left.

Long story short, the micro bankroll become a mini bankroll. All thanks to blackjack. Sweet Jebus, that's almost painful to type.

On the poker front, I've been reading a good bit. I took SSH on vacation with me, and got my signup bonus package from PokerNow in the mail, a free t-shirt and copy of Internet Texas Hold'em: Winning Strategies from an Internet Pro by Matthew Hilger.

I largely just skimmed it, but it seems a decent enough book. Most of it is pretty straightforward stuff, but he does include a lot of interesting hands in the quiz sections that end each chapter, which I always enjoy. As far as personal tidbits I picked up, I still undervalue certain draws in really large pots, especially gutshot straight draws. I also need to be more aggressive with re-raises, especially on early streets. Too often I see the specter of sets, just because someone check-raises me on the turn.

My only complaint about the book is that it really doesn't dwell on the aspect of Internet play that much, other than a few swipes here and there. In the end it's another decent hold 'em strategy book, advocating tight, aggressive play. Which isn't bad, just don't go into it expecting it to spend much time focusing on Internet play, despite the title.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Same as It Ever Was

Welp, that was fun. 12 consecutive days of not dragging myself into work = good time fun. Not to mention the whole added honeymoon bonus fun.

So here I sit, once again, in Cubicle Land. Cubicle Land is not a fun place. It's time to get serious about finding an illuminated exit sign from Cubicle Land. Having to return is bad enough without being told that I need to smile more if I expect to get a decent bonus in the future. That hard work and over-production really doesn't mean anything unless I turn that occasional frown upside down. Thanks for letting me know that on my very first day back. Not to mention that I was halfway counting on that bonus to defray the ginormous wedding expense.

Oh, wait. I'm happy. See, look at me smile. HAPPY!

So I just bit the bullet and cashed out the poker bankroll. Just a little bit shy of 4K this time. I'd rather go ahead and pay the wedding piper than have debt hang hanging over my head, even if it means back to the micro-limit grind. I left myself $100 to see what I can do with. I'll probably casino whore a bit initially, trying to bypass the .50/1 tables this time around. Each time I re-build the roll it gets harder and harder to deal with the insanity of .50/1 and I don't know if I can do it again.

I'm telling myself it's a good thing. And honestly, it is. Spending more time with the wife is a good thing. Working on assorted projects is a good thing. And, really and truly, I have to motivate and push hard on my outside business schemes. A year of ball-busting and I truly can flee Cubicle Land. I've got all the assorted pieces in place, I just need to buckle down.

I don't know what to say about the election. I honestly thought I'd be more depressed than I am. We live in a democracy in which a majority of people decide who leads us. The decided. End of story. Despite what I personally might think, them's the rules and we have to play by them. Am I embarrassed of this country as a whole? Yep. Do I fear for the future? Yep. Do I fear for the present? Yep.

But I'm in the minority. Nothing to do but suck it up and deal. I'm not going to sit and whine and offer no real alternative. Take care of yourself and the people close to you and everything else works out in the end. Unless you're in the military and get forcibly sent to some distant land to get shot out after invading someone's country. Then you're just screwed. Heh.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

PokerNow Signup and Deposit Bonus

Some of you kids likely already know about PokerNow, but they are the newest Party skin/sister site on the block. In a nutshell, the pool of players and tournaments offered is just like playing on Party, but with additional chances to get big fat juicy signup and deposit bonuses.

The Party skins are fertile ground for bonuses in general, as you get all the advantages (tons of fishy players, quick cashouts, decent customer support) with none of the negatives of other smaller independent sites (too few players, slow cashouts, etc.).

PokerNow is trying to make a name for themselves right now, so they're planning lots of promotions and assorted cool stuff.

Use bonus code Crown when signing up at this link PokerNow and you'll get a 20% bonus up to $100, which is released after playing 5x (bonus amount) in real money raked hands (played within 30 days). After 10,000 rakes hands, you'll get a spiffy, swank PokerNow embroidered poker jacket. But wait, there's more. If you use the above link when signing up give me a holler at webmaster@swellaudio.com and you'll also get your choice of three fine audio erotica CDs from SwellAudio.com, for the low, low cost of free.

That's right, kiddos. Poker, bonus codes, and free sex. What else could a monkey ask for?

Get your 20% signup bonus NOW at PokerNow! Bonus code: Crown

Friday, November 05, 2004

A WiFi Oasis Somewhere in Southern Arizona

About to hit week one of married life and, as they say, so far so good. Heh.

Things went really well, wedding-wise. No rain, no familial squabbling, no deranged miniature donkeys attacking the guests at the reception.

The honeymoon has been really cool so far. Literally. We flew into Phoenix last Monday and it was like 50 degrees. What the hell? The first two nights we were in southern Arizona/New Mexico it got down to 20 or so. Whee...

Finally found an RV park with free wireless access, so tonight is the first chance to re-tether to the wonderful Intraweb. And of course I play some poker for the first time in a week and get my ass absolutely handed to me thusfar. Sweet. It's actually almost comical, as far as the immediate suckouts and crazy bad beats. Ahh, it's good to be home, poker gods. Thanks for not letting me miss a beat.

More honeymoon fun, then NASCAR race in Phoenix on Sunday. Then finally home. It's been fun but I'm nearly ready to be home, back in the normal swing o' things. Of course then I'll immediately start bitching about how boring the normal swing o' things is. And so on. And so forth.